Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 9: A West Seattle Ramble: Why Persistent Route Finding can pay off

Day by day, I think that Seattle is becoming a better biking town.  I'm grateful for the improvements the city has made, the advocacy of Cascade Bicycle club, and our Mayor who sets an excellent example by riding his bike.  I picked up a copy of the new January 2013 pocket-sized bike map at the Bike Works auction.

I think we should celebrate improvements listed on the map such as:

SDOT installed 129 miles of new bike lanes & shallows between 2007 and 2011
There are six green bike boxes around Seattle
SDOT installed 2,230 new bike parking spaces including six on-street racks (perhaps more than that?  Metro made them take out the one at Seattle Town Hall where it's quite difficult to park a bike, but I digress.)

 Be sure to get a copy.

Taking short trips in Seattle is easy and getting easier all the time.

My frustration comes to the surface when planning a longer bike ride.   When you study the map with the intent of planning a route you start to notice important gaps in the network.  Of course, there is THE missing link: the gap in the Burke Gilman trail (from the Ballard Locks to where the Shilshole part of the trail picks up) which has been in litigation for over ten years.  But that is only one of many missing links.  When you get your copy of the map, try this:  before opening it, chose a destination of 20 miles or more (other than on one of our excellent bike tails).  My choice for Day 9's ride was from Capitol Hill to Alki.

This is a common ride of over 20 miles round trip from where I live.  So in the spirit of working around the gaps in the bike route network, I decided that this is a route worth investing in.  By that I mean trying all options until you find the best one.  This time we hit the route jackpot!!!  (Search for the word "jackpot" if you don't want to wait for the route info.) I also wrote the SDOT to see if they had ideas, but I have not heard back yet.

I think it's important to note that the bike map is the official negotiated listing of bike routes.  It does not always show the best way from point A to Point B probably because they have to deal with other city departments such as Metro and their concerns; cyclists are not their only priority.  Also, I am learning not to be afraid of trying connecting roads that are not labelled.  It doesn't mean that they are necessarily bad; it does mean that they are not officially designated for bike use.

The tricky part of the route comes after you ride through the international district and follow the signs to the SODO bike path which parallels the light rail route frоm South Royal Brougham Wаy tо South Forest Street (about 3 miles--it's the dark green line heading south on the map below).  Having taken this trail before I knew that it just dead ends at a strange spot, so we knew to get off at S. Lander Street.  (Perhaps there is a purpose for that last block, but I fail to understand it.)  Now what?  Consulting the bike map it indicated that Lander has sharrows.  We went that way but I don't recommend it--it just didn't feel safe.  So is there a safer way to connect with the West Seattle Bridge trail?

I also consulted Google Maps bicycle maps and here is what it suggested: has anyone tried that strange loop on Royal Brougham?

Eventually we made our way across the West Seattle bridge--there are great bike path improvements here if you haven't ridden it lately and they are well signed.

I love the views of Seattle even on an overcast day.
West Seattle Passenger Ferry--A nice shortcut if you want to head right to downtown instead of recrossing the bridge.
 There is even a beach which is pretty cool for so close to Seattle.

Here is Jonathan basking under a palm tree.  There is one row of them along the beach which is a little surprising givien Seattle's climate.

After lunch we headed back across the bridge.  The bike path routes you on the North side of the bridge which gives you a good view of the Duwamish River.

Duwamish River looking North.

We were surprised by the improvements along Spokane Street so we stayed on the sidewalk/path.  There is an interesting art installation along this whole area.  Here is one of the many stencils that provide information about the cultural and historical aspects of the area.  Foot traffic was minimal so riding this way was a pleasure.  There is more information about the art installation at this link.

And here is where we hit the route jackpot.  We turned left on the Busway road around 6th Ave S.  It's between 4th Ave S and 6th AveS as shown here in blue.  Headed North, it has a wide shoulder.  It's more narrow headed South, but still worth a try.  This road is not even shown on the bike map--there is just a weird space.

Here is how to connect back to the SODO trail:

Our other new route innovation was not as successful.  I had always wanted to try going up the steep hill at Holgate across I-5 to join up with the branch of the I-90 trail that opened last summer (the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway Trail--this is the segment that parallels the East side of I-5).  You have to climb a short staircase, but then I had to walk the hill as it was too steep for getting started.  Jonathan rode part of the way!

I love passing the pagoda at Daejeon Park.

And here is the inside of the roof.

A lovely day for a ride!

Friday, April 5, 2013

What a difference a ride makes: from ruinous to joyful

I drove my daughter to school this morning and, by car, it looked like a rather ruinous day with rain and wind and lots of stuff blowing around.

Later when I got out on my bike, it seemed more like a beautiful spring morning.  The type of morning that makes me promise things like: I'll never take for granted the beautiful green canopy of trees just starting to leaf. Or I'll get started riding earlier (because I've always wished I'd left earlier once I'm out on the road.)  Or I won't forget to be grateful to my body for taking me all sorts of places (or the bike fitters that enabled me to ride with a challenging knee, but that's another post).  That sort of thing.

So the difference by car and then by bike was quite notable.

Yes, it's raining and windy, but also kind of exciting out there in Seattle today.  I hope you can find time for a ride!

As I finished writing these words, there was that happy little 'tink' sound from Facebook and I received the following message (slightly edited to hide the person's identity and used with the author's permission):

Hi, Donna - Thanks again for pointing me to your biking blog. For the blog, yes, but more importantly for the message from the universe. <smile>

I haven't posted about it in sunny FB land, and I haven't told many of the people I know (not even my own mom), but I was recently diagnosed with epilepsy. Beyond the shock and awe of what the hell is happening to my brain, I'm also not allowed to drive for quite a while - they've even suspended my license. (Just think the words "school carpool" and you can imagine what bomb this has been in my family life.)

So, I've been eyeing my bike. Beyond a valid means of transportation (I've never wanted to go to the gym so fervently), it would expand my range and give me a much needed change of scenery. It could also be one small thing that ultimately I could be grateful for in this whole experience - because I'm skeered. I don't want to wear head-to-toe spandex, I don't want to wear a helmet, I don't want to tackle the hills, and I definitely don't want to be hit by a car. So getting past those barriers and getting on to a bike would be a life-changing thing for me - and your blog is inspiring me to do it.

I'll keep reading your blog, and thinking, and imagining. And heck, maybe I'll also get myself down to Recycled Cycles and get a decent bike.

Thank you, thank you.

Such a moving message on so many levels.  The small part that is relevant to this blog is that I am a reluctant blogger--it seems just a bit silly and self-indulgent at times and I am still very much a novice at it.  After reading something like that it gives me the courage to click"publish."  As the next text message said:

The reluctant blogger meets the reluctant biker. Fate!

And a wonderful reminder of how we all inspire each others in so many ways.

Thank you, thank you.

Day 3: Oh the Places you'll go on a bike: Seattle Children's Hospital and Town Hall

The longer I ride, the more likely I am to chose the nicest way over the fastest way. The first of my two rides today was to Children's to pick up some paperwork.  I had decided I only wanted to brave the University of Washington section of the  Burke Gilman trail once (due to congestion) so I took a quiet detour after crossing the Montlake bridge by turning right towards the UW climbing rock, passing the waterfront activities center and Husky stadium,  the bright purple track, and the driving range (wrong turn) before picking up the Burke Gilamn again (see map below).  I wasn't sure where to get off the trail, so was delighted to see the following sign:

You are on your own from there, but it wasn't too hard for a local to figure out.  After picking up the paperwork, I headed up 40th to grab a bite at Metropolitan Market for a sunny picnic.  I dawdled a bit too much so had to ride hard to get home in time to pick up Irene from school.

Today I was struck by the things I saw that taking roadways would have bypassed. Marjorie Brant Osterhout often posts a list of "What I saw on my walk today" on Facebook, so here is a list of a few things I  saw on my ride today: A person learning to pole vault, hundreds of golf balls in a field with no two appearing to touch, a field of startling yellow daffodils, and a swampy area that did not smell.

In the evening, I rode to Town Hall to hear Maria Semple the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette along with Nancy Pearl.  It's faster to ride then drive and park, so I made sure all three of my lights were working and headed out.  Bike Parking was tricky as there was no bike rack--hard to imagine for such a venue.  I am a fan of Town Hall nonetheless.  For $5 you can see hundreds of different programs.  Last year there were 412 to chose from.  

My date for the evening was surprised I was riding in the dark, and I suppose it's takes a little getting used to, but it seems quite natural to me.  In someways, it's even more pleasant as the traffic levels are down.  If you already ride, consider giving it a try sometime.

Map:  Seattle Montlake Bridge to the Burke Gilman Bike Path (ahem.  multi-use trail).  Do not turn right on 45th.  Cross over it and use the driveways to move right and look for the curb cut.

The dark green bulge at the top of the map is the Burke Gilman.  I cut the map off to the right because you can pick up the BG just across NE45th.  Now that I look at it, it looks like this is a short cut!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 2: Ginsu Knives Reincarnated

Day 2 of 30 Day of Cycling was an a day of running errands by bike which is often the best way to get things done.  Parking is no problem.  You just hop on and go to the next stop.  My last errand was to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner.  There was demonstration going on.  I watched as the man used a knife to cut through the head of a a hammer.

 Apparently the Ginsu knife lives and will soon be marketed under a new name.
He gave me a set to try for free.

Even if you are not old enough to remember the original Ginsu commercials from the 1970's, you may have heard some of the terms in other hard-sell commercials.  The ads asked "How much would you pay? Don't answer!" and urged viewers to "Call now! Operators are standing by!" and included the line "But wait! There's more!".

Perhaps you even own "amazing" Ginsu knives as between two and three million Ginsu sets were sold between 1978 and 1984.

2013 Day 1: An evening Ride to the Japanese Garden to Meet the Office Nomads

Koi pond at the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum

The first days of 30 days of riding have been going well, but I thought I'd better catch up on my blog.  Day 1 was a fun ride with my husband in the early evening to the Washington Park Arboretum.

Here is a glimpse of him now.

Jonathan looking through one of the stone lanterns.
The Japanese Garden is lovely this time of year with new growth springing forth from the ravages of winter.

The greens are intese and lush.

  And the paths invite exploring.

My husband works at Office Nomads which is a coworking community and this was their outing. Their motto is "individuality without isolation."  They are an interesting group of folks with pursuits ranging from studying black guillemots (an arctic seabird) to computers, to restoring classic pinball machines.  

Look, here are a few Nomads in the wild.

 And in captivity.
The Koi are not part of office nomads.  Yet.
 And here is a gratuitous shot of them through one of the beautiful stone lanterns.
The ride back up capitol hill was also an adventure.  We decided to try a short cut thru Interlaken Park only to find parts had been landscaped to prevent comfortable cycling. I thought that was funny given that in the 1890's Interlaken was established as the principal bike and buggy path linking Capitol Hill with Lake Washington.  Still, a great day to start 30 days of cycling!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013: 30 more days of cycling

So, I just signed up for 30 Days of Cycling for this year.  I've located this blog.  I think I'm all set! Will you join me in the adventure?  Here's how:

30 Days of Biking, whose fourth year begins April 1, has one rule: Bike somewhere every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online. We advocate daily bicycling because we believe it enriches lives and preserves the Earth. A worldwide, thousands-strong community of joyful cyclists has been forming around that idea since April 2010—and will further amass in 2013! We ride our bikes every day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

30 Days of Biking: My Favorite Seattle Ride and more on Multimodal transit

Well, here we are on day 28 and I'm happy to say that I haven't missed a day of riding yet!  The blog?  Well, it's been a few days.

Cool bike signage.  We headed across I-90 and picked up the South part of the Lake Washington Loop.
Yesterday I had a lovely ride around the south end of Lake Washington with Sarah.  It's one of my favorites.  I love the views, the lightly trafficked roads on the East side of the lake, the gentle hills, and that you only have to cross the I-90 bridge once.  After you reach Seward Park, it's basically flat until the final climb from lake level to the top of Capitol hill.  But even then, it's the best route up the hill and perfect for running errands on the way home.  

The Lovely in Pink Sarah.
I picked up my daughter after the ride so didn't do the final climb.  My new computer tells me that the mileage was just over 30.

The bike is still in the car awaiting today's delicate transit dance.  Here's the plan:  My husband, daughter and I will all drive to Seattle Center.  Jonathan and Irene only have to stay about an hour, so they will unload my bike, and drive the car home.  After I finish stage managing for day one of the Irish dance competition, I'll ride home.  Now, we could have used the bus to achieve the same result, but Irene talked us into this plan as she has a lot of homework and competes all day tomorrow.

Oh, and anyone who wants to ride the South end of the lake--just let me know!  What's your favorite Seattle Ride??

Stay tuned for my next entry:  care and feeding of your bike mechanic.